Walter McDuffie

Starting Off The Beaten Path
LT Walter McDuffie, Nuclear Officer, USN

“The Navy has allowed me to challenge myself in ways you won’t find in entry-level engineering jobs. You’re responsible for so much more in terms of equipment and people and decision making. It’s helped me to see what I’m capable of.”
— LT Walter McDuffie, Nuclear Officer, USN

When he started college at Mississippi State University, Walter McDuffie knew one thing: he loved engineering. So he set out to pursue a degree in mechanical engineering.

As a sophomore, he came to another important realization. After responding to a flyer posted in the engineering school, Walter became aware of the extraordinary things he could one day be doing with his engineering mind in America’s Navy.

“I wanted to join because of the prospect of serving and the chance to do that on submarines,” he says. “I also wanted to veer away from the beaten path…from what my other friends were doing…from going on to get a nine-to-five job.”

Learning that immediate and substantial income would be available to him as a student …that was just added incentive.

“In the NUPOC (Nuclear Propulsion Officer Candidate) program, you get E6 pay while finishing school. That was more than enough to pay my tuition, to provide housing and to cover a bunch of other things that helped me to have a better quality of life at school.”

Walter applied. Got accepted into the highly competitive NUPOC program. And then, after completing his undergraduate degree essentially debt-free, began his Navy career – going from Officer Candidate School to Nuke Power School to something referred to as Prototype – where he trained on an actual nuclear reactor and got the experience of giving orders. Important orders.

Less than two years out of college and already a leader with a world-class education and world-renowned training under his belt. But the real fun was still to come.

LT McDuffie talks about the next step in his training. “Submarine Officer School was actually my favorite part of the whole training process,” he says. “Just learning the different tactics, weapons and capabilities that a submarine can employ.”

The requisite training complete, LT McDuffie reported for his first assignment – serving as an Officer aboard the USS Maryland (SSBN-738) – a nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine with enough firepower to make it roughly the fifth most powerful nation in the world.

He’s quick to point out, “Driving the submarine…it’s the most exciting thing in the world. You’re out there, encountering different ships, seeing them on sonar, and the cool part is: You know they are there, but they don’t know you are.”

Today, LT McDuffie can be found serving as a Nuclear Programs Officer – helping to ensure that smart, motivated young men and women like himself find their way into the Naval Nuclear Propulsion program. While doing that, he’s also pursuing a master’s degree in business administration – with the Post-911 G.I. Bill covering most of the cost.

As he considers transitioning into a civilian role in the near future in order to spend more time with his wife and young family, LT McDuffie is confident of this: “You can go virtually everywhere and do virtually anything having been a Nuclear Submarine Officer in the Navy.”

When Do You Get Out?

“I go to a lot of career fairs, and when I’m in uniform, companies are able to see that I’m a Navy Officer. They’re handing me their cards and asking, ‘When do you get out?’

You can do so much having the experience of a Nuclear Submarine Officer. And it doesn’t just have to be nuclear in nature. You have an extensive engineering background. You have a lot of personnel and equipment management experience. You’ve been tested in challenging situations and employers know you have the tenacity to fight through, to really succeed at whatever you do.

That’s what employers see when they see me in uniform. So the job prospects are numerous.”

— LT Walter McDuffie, Nuclear Officer, USN